Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Samos, Platanos, and an Unforgettable Evening of Greek Hospitality

The beautiful harbor of Pythagorio, capital of Samos, the Greek island which lies closest to Turkey, curves along a quay lined with charming restaurants and shops.  Looming above the harbor are the ruins of the Kastro, or castle, which was erected in the 19th  century and successfully used to thwart a Turkish attack in 1824.  The city was named for the famed mathematician Phythagoras, although the change of name occurred in 1955--better late than never, I suppose--and his bust stands before city hall. 

Our draw to the island, however, was far more than an appreciation of lovely Pythagorio, however.  For obvious reasons, I never identify individuals on this blog, but two members of our group, husband and wife, have strong family ties to Samos and, in particular, the mountaintop village of Platanos.  They arranged for us to spend an evening touring the village and, after a bus ride surmounting a series of switchbacks, we arrived at the mountain peak to be greeted by a welcome sign, prepared by village schoolchildren, that was draped over the roadway.  Followed by a welcoming cocktail in a tavern with a panoramic view of the valleys and beaches below, we visited the fire station, the school house, and both new and old Greek Orthodox churches. 

Welcoming sign

Typical home

This spring has served as a water source since time immemorial

The band

The locals

The food

The dancing

Our friends' relatives graciously accompanied our group at every step and we ended our tour in the town square, where we were met by townspeople and a live band.  What followed was course after course of terrific Greek food and a seemingly endless supply of wine.  Oh, and dancing.  Traditional Greek dancing in which several of us were invited to join.  Perhaps against our better judgment, we did.  I believe that the wine may have had something to do with it.  Other than the fact that we set Greek culture back by decades, a good time was had by all. 

                                                       My new friends are thrilled

                                                                  Just kidding around

And we danced some more

The welcoming Greek people were a highlight.  Several made an effort at conversation and many of us, as the wine continued to flow, came to believe that we could speak Greek.  One of the restaurant owners produced a bottle of a type of alcohol that is likely illegal in most countries and proceeded to share shots with many of us.  A member of our group reputedly imbibed seven shots and proceeded to perform a type of acrobatics on the bus trip back downhill. 

Before the evening concluded, however, we shared hugs and handshakes all around.  It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the fact that our traveling companions were so willing to share their friends and family with us displayed a generosity of spirit that will not be forgotten. 

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